Best! Decision! Ever!

19.December 2009

India

There wasn’t any one event that made us leave India early. There was no tragic event, no-one was unkind, we didn’t get robbed or ripped off, we didn’t even get really sick. Sure, in the end, we did both have bad colds that made it that much harder to deal with, but it wasn’t like we had classic ‘Delhi Belly’ or anything like that.

No, it was just a slow build up to realizing that we just weren’t enjoying ourselves. The dirt, the garbage, the smells, the poverty, the noise, the staring, the inability to walk anywhere…all added up to us often not even wanting to leave the hotel room. We weren’t laughing and relaxing and chatting about what we were going to do next, but rather were often convincing ourselves that maybe, just maybe, the next place would be better.

It’s true, travel is not always fun and games, sunshine and white sand…but we felt that we had given it a shot and didn’t want to spend anymore of our precious time not having fun. We’re glad that we went as we would surely have regretted not going, but I’m proud of us for realizing that it wasn’t working and deciding to leave. That was always part of the plan…be flexible, stay somewhere longer if we want, leave a place early if we’re not liking it.

Although we left early, we certainly didn’t leave India without some observations and thoughts…and not all of them are bad.

Chai-wallah, Rajasthan The food in India is very good. We loved the curries and the breads and liked trying new meats such as goat.  Having the car and driver allowed us to stop at some very small, local places where we enjoyed chai and paranthas for breakfast.

India is both clean and dirty. The insides of buildings and hotels can be very clean but they just dump all the garbage right outside…sweep it right out the front door. Shopkeepers are constantly sweeping the storefront but, when the floor is dirt, and the stoop is dirt and the street is dirt, I often wondered to what end.

King Of The Road, Rajasthan There really are cows everywhere. Unfortunately most of them do not look very well and can most often be seen rooting through garbage piles for food. They are often in the middle of the road and traffic just routes around them – they don’t even appear to notice.

People in India and helpful and not-so-helpful. A lot of them would come and point out an attraction of tourist office for us…and give us completely incorrect information. At first we thought that maybe they were trying to scam us except there never seemed to be anything in it for them to give us the wrong information. I came to the conclusion that maybe they just wanted to talk to us and so seeming helpful was a way to be able to do that. More than once I ignored a persons ‘advice’ only to find that actually they were being helpful – I went out of my way to apologize when this happened as I probably seemed quite rude.

Jaisalmer Fort-5 Indians are very proud of their country and their towns. We were in the Jasailmer Fort, surrounded by cows and cow shit, people begging, broken down buildings and the unmistakable stench of human sewage running in the open grate beneath our feet and our guide says to us ‘”welcome to beautiful Jasailmer Fort”…seriously, it’s like they can’t see it (or smell it).

Indians like to stare. We’ve been stared at plenty on this trip but never like it was here. It was like dropping a monkey in the middle of a shopping mall at the height of the Christmas rush…everyone staring to see what it will do and unable to take look away. I was the monkey and the staring was incessant. Sometimes I just could not believe it.

We left India shaky and unsure what we wanted to do. We knew we didn’t want to go home but wondered if continuing on our planned itinerary was still going to work for us. Should we just stop and settle in somewhere for a long time? Were we done with being on the move? Should we head to Europe or New Zealand where the culture is familiar and easier?  We felt shell shocked and done with ‘hard travel’. We got on the plane and headed to Thailand planning on spending Christmas on the beach to try and figure out how to spend the next 5 months.

Within one day of being in Bangkok we realized that we had made the Best Decision Ever. We quickly relaxed, we were laughing again, and looking forward to going out to find a bite, or a drink, or to see a sight. We are ourselves again and realize that we can continue with our original itinerary but, now that we have some extra time, we’ll be able to slow it down a bit which will be nice.

And so we are currently headed to southern Thailand to work on our tans and spend the holidays on the island beaches. Best Decision Ever indeed.

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16 Responses to “Best! Decision! Ever!”

  1. Shawn Says:

    I agree, why stay someplace if the country is not agreeable. The staring eyes are overly strong in Egypt, also. Plus lot of poverty and garbage. Ech person is affected differently viewing the dynamic difference from the comfort of the West.

    Great decision to head to Thailand.

    By the way, how long is the visa in Thailand?

  2. Cam Says:

    Sounds like a good plan…Christmas in Thailand.
    Weather here sucks at the moment. Cold, damp, and dark.

  3. Geoff Says:

    Good for you! and great to hear you’re enjoying things again.

    Any idea how long you’ll be in Thailand? I’ll be passing through in January sometime on my way up to Cambodia

  4. Akila Says:

    Congrats on figuring out what you need. Traveling has to be about you and what you want and what you need. Like Geoff, I am also curious about how long you will be in Thailand. It looks like we will be there in mid-January.

  5. Helene Says:

    Hey, I’ve been following your story (partly through Daniel – BackpackFoodie.com), and am curious to know which part of southern Thailand you’re heading to! I’ve been to Ko Samui twice (10 years apart), but don’t know much about the rest… I hope you like the beach and relaxation there! And we’ll be switching places with you, haha! Heading to India soon!!!

  6. Anil Says:

    Sometimes you just don’t like a place and move onto better things. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas :)

  7. Juanita Says:

    Enjoy your time in Thailand…from our experience we found it to be a beautiful place with great people.
    Merry Christmas!!

    • Gillian Says:

      We are on Koh Pha-Ngan on Haad Yao until Jan 5th. Currently have no plans after that although I hear Koh Lanta is wonderful! We have to hit the border by Jan 12th as our 30 days will be up – we’re thinking of Malaysia for long enough to get a Thai visa and maybe visit the Cameron Highlands. If anyone is nearby drop us an email…it would be cool to hook up!!

  8. Helene Says:

    I don’t know if it’s the same everywhere, but here in Laos we got our Thai visa for free! the “promotion” will last a few months more. The nice thing is we asked for double-entry, 60 days! We’ll see tomorrow if the guy at the border does give us 60 days, but anyway, if was free for the asking! No hassles, apply today – pick it up tomorrow kind of thing (here in Vientiane, anyway). Enjoy the sun, beach, and beer Chang! :-)

  9. Sean Says:

    Border runs are quite common in Thailand with the number of expats living there. Some enterprising folks have even set up border run services that collect your passports, take you to the border and drop you at a restaurant for lunch while they sort out all your paperwork, then take you back.
    I went with a company called “Jack’s Golf” while living in Bangkok and it was well worth the few extra pennies not to deal with the hassle and virtual plague of ripoffs and scams at the border of Cambodia. I was expecting a few people making the run in a van but was shocked to find a big coach bus waiting for us.
    I’m sure you can find something similar in the south if you don’t want to travel Malaysia (Ask Google, it knows everything). Malaysia is nice, but a bit “quiet” after experiencing Thailand.
    Sorry India didn’t work out, but I really enjoyed the very excellent introspective writing on your hard experiences.
    Keep having fun! Ah.. Thailand for Christmas..

  10. eric helgoth Says:

    Gillian and Jason,

    Just checking to see where you two are these days. Sorry to hear India didn’t work out for you. I enjoyed reading of your experiences there, both good and bad. It may help me plan better if or when I get back out on the road. India may not be the place for me. It’s good that you are keeping your schedule flexible for the very reasons you wrote about and it sounds like you made the right choice. I’ve only read this one post but hope to have the chance to read some earlier ones. May you both have a Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year!

  11. Jeremy and Eva Rees Says:

    Glad to hear you two are smiling again! We’re in Laos now, and we’ll be headed back into Thailand sometime in late February, until then, we’ll be going through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. We ran into your pals Project Runaway on the slow boat to Luang Prabang! Small world!

  12. Asa Says:

    Hi guys,

    Just doing some back reading about your time in India. Interesting post. I’m actually liking India a lot. I wonder if starting in the south (we started in Chennai) made it easier. Plus, we couchsurfed to start which I know helped in that we had a nice, clean place to stay our first few days. We’re also going to couchsurf in Bangalore (this Saturday) and hope to in Mumbai as well. We also found the beach in Valkara to be amazing; very touristy, but it didn’t have the garbage (well, not as much anyway) and masses of people (and no cows). Anyway, you experienced something new, learned something about yourself. What more can you ask of travel? Take care, Asa

    • Gillian Says:

      Hi Asa,
      We’ve been seeing how well you and Jaimee are doing there…and are envious. I do think starting in the south makes a difference and, as you have done, finding a way to break through the ‘crust’ to find a connection…neither of which we were able to do. We’re enjoying reading your stories and look forward to hearing more from you. Cheers, G.

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